Bulletin of Dental Education

Loma Linda University SD Professor Awarded $1.2M NIH K23 Grant

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Chi T. Viet, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.D.

Chi T. Viet, D.D.S., Ph.D., M.D., an Assistant Professor in the Advanced Dental Education Program in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (LLUSD), has been awarded a National Institutes of Health K23 Grant to evaluate the epigenetic signature of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma pain.

The five-year, $1,226,070 grant will support the development of a research program to investigate the biomarkers (epigenetic signatures) of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma pain in patients as well as the implementation of preclinical models to study the epigenetic mechanisms of cancer pain. This research includes the first prospective trial to comprehensively assess pain in head and neck cancer patients and characterize the epigenomic landscape of head and neck cancer pain.

As a head and neck surgeon and scientist, Dr. Viet’s research focus over the past 15 years has been on the epigenetic mechanisms of head and neck carcinogenesis and pain. Her career goal is to improve outcomes in head and neck cancer patients through highly impactful translational research. Her surgical work in head and neck cancer and microvascular reconstruction has given her a deep understanding of the most critical problems plaguing head and neck cancer patients and, as a result, has compelled her to focus on cancer pain research. Beyond poor survival, these patients face more severe pain than other cancer patients. Poor pain control not only erodes their quality of life, but it also decreases their survival. The epigenetics of cancer pain remains a poorly investigated area. With her previous work, she has laid the foundation to establish the role of epigenetics as an important driver of cancer pain and has identified key gene targets to treat both cancer pain and cancer growth.

Dr. Viet’s drive for pain research is deeply rooted in a desire to change pain management and mitigate opioid dependence in her own cancer patients. Cancer pain and opioid dependence are both major public health concerns, and in fact many head and neck cancer patients become opioid dependent. She is hopeful that new, non-opioid therapies resulting from highly translational research will significantly improve quality of life and survival in her patients

Dr. Viet earned her D.D.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco, and her M.D. from New York University, where she completed her Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery residency followed by a fellowship in Head and Neck Oncology and Microvascular Reconstructive Surgery at Providence Medical Center in Portland, OR.

Courtesy of Loma Linda University School of Dentistry

Published on Sept. 8, 2021

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